It may've seemed as if good ole Marcel Duchamp (or R. Mutt, as he called himself in this case) was disrespecting the art crowd in 1917 when he submitted the "Fountain" to New York's Society of Independent Artists. A lot of people understandably muttered, "I patronize with my hard-earned dollars! Tax write-off or no tax write-off, someone's a dirty little bird!"
But history's most infamous urinal was the ultimate sign of respect, Marcel asking an important question in a ludicrous way: "What is art?" What is worthy of appreciation? Can you appreciate this?' And you must believe Duchamp thought that even if his art pals couldn't answer that question, at least "Fountain" woulda made the gallery opening one kick-ass party full of deeply offended rich people.
If it couldn't be loved, at least his pissoir could be hated.
Philadelphia's Need New Body make the same sort of artistic commitment when the first track on their latest album breaks down into a monotonous, inartistic sequence of Nintendo beats. I guarantee lead vocalist-multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bradbury wasn't sitting around at the time of recording going, "Oh man, those kids are going to love this Super Mario field recording! It's going to be like "Wooly Booly' all over again and the fraternity guys will get have great, fertile orgasms to our rhythmic juggernaut, and a new line of privileged drunkards with secret handshakes will be spawned in our name!"
Or it's like this: on a very nice day you step out of your well-manicured suburban home only to see a rather large dog letting a steaming turd onto the hood of your father's Lincoln Navigator, after which your mother's prize roses spontaneously combust, the paint on the fence peels off in a seismic wave of undoing, and then it rains-over your house only.
Only, it's not raining water. It's raining that new fire-retardant super roofing that's all the rage in Southern California. And when the retard rain stops, you can rest well at night knowing that when Prometheus throws back that fireball on us mortals, it's gonna burn the Jones' pad and leave yours untorched. But your dad's car still needs a good de-turding, the fence calls for a new coat of Dutch Boy and your mom is gonna be steamed because she'll figure you weed-whacked her flowers under a full moon, all wild-eyed from that suspicious substance you brought back from Tijuana.
That's the kind of nonsensical, imagistic world that Need New Body creates-where things stink and fall apart and combust, but they also create new and better things, like the fuzzy dance rock riff of "Hot Shot," which NNB thought was such a good idea they just repeated the same autistic drill-press drumbeat and chanted "Hot shot! Hot shot! Hot shot! Hot shot!" over and over until they felt like inserting a "Whoooo!" and letting the man with the banjo see how fast he could play.
And whaddaya know-people really, really dig this shit. It's primarily instrumental banjo-free-jazz-folk-punk-art-rock-electro-clash-cabaret-little more than a few starving musicians digging up Frank Zappa's decomposed body, dressing it in drag and taking photos to post onto one of those dating websites because they think it's the supreme art-fag gag. They even admit it on UFO, intentionally or not, by dropping the word "Beefhearts" (as in the good Captain) and speaking of a wet T-shirt contest (Zappa had a similar ode to the American pastime).
Need New Body's albums and live shows are a dare-a dare that may not have been so darn well-liked if it weren't humorous and driving and danceable. And maybe, just maybe, it sounds smarter than you and me.
That doesn't make it good, and it sure as hell don't make it bad. But the dare's on.
Need New Body play at the Che Café on June 24. 858-534-2311.